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Half of Scotland's NHS boards missed cancer care target

A target for cancer patients to begin treatment has been missed by half of Scotland's NHS boards.

Seven boards failed to hit the standard for getting at least 95% of patients with a suspicion of cancer to their first treatment within 62 days.

NHS Grampian scored lowest with 89.5% and Orkney was the only board to hit 100%, according to the latest official statistics covering July to September.

The target was also missed by Highland, Borders, Fife, Ayrshire and Arran, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Shetland boards.

The national average was slightly below the target at 94.5%.

All 14 boards passed a second target to ensure 95% of all patients, regardless of route of referral, wait a maximum 31 days from decision to treat to their first treatment.

In this case, the national average was 98.1%, up slightly on the previous figures.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: "We understand that having to wait for tests or to begin cancer treatment can be frightening and at the very least frustrating. That is why we continue to scrutinise performance across NHS Scotland and request action plans from NHS boards where performance against the cancer waiting times standard has not been maintained.

"When it comes to cancer, we are determined to take all the necessary action to improve earlier diagnosis, advance the treatments available to patients and invest in staff and equipment. This commitment is helping us to treat more patients that ever before, with over 4,000 more patients treated under the 62-day standard since 2007.

"We also know that more Scots are surviving cancer compared to 25-30 years ago. The simple truth is, more people are surviving because treatments are better and more people are getting checked earlier. The earlier cancer is found, the easier it is to treat and the more likely you are to survive. That is why we are telling the public not to get scared, get checked and why we will do everything we can to ensure that once they get checked they get treatment as quickly as possible."

Scottish Labour health spokesman Neil Findlay said: "Half of Scottish health boards are still missing the 62-day cancer waiting time target. That's hundreds of Scots across the country left with an agonising wait to begin treatment. What's just as worrying is that seven out of the10 types of cancer that are covered by the guarantee are falling below the expected standard.

"Almost everyone in Scotland is affected by cancer, be it your own diagnosis or that of a family member, friend or colleague. Early diagnosis is improving in part because of years of campaigning from the marvellous cancer charities we have here. But more needs to be done to ensure that quick access to treatment is available for all patients with all types of cancer.

"The treatment guarantee needs to be reviewed and lowered to give all patients the best chance of survival and we need to know whether beyond that people are continuing to receive follow-up treatment quickly as this is not currently documented."

Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume said steps must be taken to stop a "worsening crisis".

He said: "It is a grave reflection of the state of our health boards that half of health boards have missed the national cancer treatment target. There has been barely a jot of improvement this year.

"This will be upsetting for patients and their families, already coping with the stress of a loved one being diagnosed with cancer. Sixty-two days alone must feel like decades, which is why the Health Secretary must get a grip of this unacceptable situation."

Contextual targeting label: 
Health

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